Legal Sports Betting Continues to Spread through U.S.

Two years ago in May of 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Professional & Amateur Sports Protection Act violates the 10th amendment to the Constitution. In words that sports bettors can understand, the ruling opened the door for the legalization of sports betting in the United States.

If you are not up on your Constitutional law, the 10th amendment states that any powers not specifically identified to be federal powers are left to the states. In relation to Supreme Court case Murphy v. the NCAA, that means each state (plus the District of Columbia) can decide for itself whether or not to legalize sports gambling.


Supreme Court overturns federal ban on sports gambling


Prior to the ruling, the only legitimate sports betting took place in Nevada. After May 2018, several states quickly put legislation in place to legalize sports betting in some fashion. To date, 21 states plus D.C. have some form of legal sports gambling.

Where Sports Betting Is Legal

A total of seven states legalized sports betting but action can only take place in a physical sportsbook. 

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Michigan
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • New York

Delaware was the first state to pass legislation to legalize. In Arkansas, sports betting is all over-the-counter. In other states like Montana, wagers can be placed on a smartphone but only while inside a licensed operation such as a bar or restaurant.

Full Mobile Betting

Six states passed laws to allow full mobile betting.

  • Colorado
  • Indiana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia

The state of New Jersey fought for legalization for over a decade before the Supreme Court ruling in 2018. New Jersey made sports betting legal very quickly after the ruling and is the industry leader in online offerings. In 2019, the state brought in over $4.5 billion in wagers and more than 80 percent were placed online.

Partial Mobile Betting

Five states legalized partial mobile betting, which is essentially mobile betting but with a twist.

  • Iowa
  • Mississippi
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island

In Nevada for example, bettors must first register in person in a casino. Then, they can begin placing bets online. The same is true in Iowa. In Mississippi, mobile wagering is legal. The twist is that it is only permitted while a bettor is inside a casino.

Legalized Recently

Four states passed laws and are in the process of opening up sports betting operations. 

  • District of Columbia
  • Washington
  • Tennessee
  • North Carolina

In D.C. mobile wagering is in place via the D.C. Lottery app. Sports bettors in Washington can place wagers but only in the state’s tribal casinos. No bets can be placed on in-state college teams.

Tennessee will be the only state to offer online-only betting, but bets cannot be placed just yet. It is expected to go live in Tennessee in July of this year.

North Carolina is similar to Washington. Sports betting is legal but only in two tribal casinos. Both are located in the western part of the state and are several hours away from the state’s larger metropolitan areas like Charlotte and Raleigh.

Legalization Coming 2020

Four more states have legislation either on the ballot, waiting to be signed into law, or under consideration by the state legislature.

  • Ohio
  • Connecticut
  • Virginia
  • Maryland

A bill passed in Virginia and is awaiting Gov. Ralph Northam’s signature. It is hoped that legal betting in the state is up and running by the 2020 NFL season.

2021 & Beyond

There are 15 states that could possibly approve some sort of legislation and go live in 2021.

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Missouri
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Vermont

Maine could be troublesome. It is the only state in which a governor vetoed a bill that had passed through a state’s House and Senate. Gov. Janet Mills vetoed the bill and the Maine Senate overturned the veto. The House did not do the same, which killed the bill until 2021.

Of the remaining 10 states, only Nebraska has legislation currently under consideration by its Congress. Approval is a longshot there as the state shot down an expansion of casino gambling a few years ago.

Approval in the other states is unlikely as well due to circumstances such as tribal gaming conflicts (Minnesota) and religious considerations (Utah).

About the Author

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Rick, a Generation X-er, who now lives just north of the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. A former high school, college, and professional football player, Rick now spends his time as a high school coach and as a personal quarterback trainer. An all-state high school quarterback, he went on to become an Academic All-American at Division II Indiana University of PA. He later coached at his alma mater helping lead the program to the 1990 NCAA Division II national championship game. Rick has also served as a high school head coach and as an assistant in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan.

His passion for sports writing started when he was the sports editor for his high school newspaper and continued when he worked as a sportswriter for the Jamestown (New York) Post-Journal in the early 1990s. A true sports fanatic, Rick enjoys all things Pittsburgh: Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. The Immaculate Reception, the 1979 We Are Family Pirates, and the ’91-’92 Penguins are among his favorites. After working as an educator and athletic director for several years, he again took up sports writing and has contributed to several websites and publications, including Coach & Player magazine, X & O Labs, American Football Monthly, and many others.

When not consumed with coaching, watching, thinking about, or writing about football and other seasonal sports, he finds himself working out like he was still in college and reading everything from military history to Brad Thor novels. Rick has also been chasing rock god stardom as a drummer who has played with bands that have opened for the likes of Fuel, Days of the New, and Alien Ant Farm. He continues to play with his church worship group. Most importantly, Rick is married to the love of his life, Lisa, and has two beautiful daughters.